My paper for the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute on employment policy in the UK.
The paper analyses the UK’s approach to active labour market policy, which has been a central feature of economic statecraft in the UK since the 1990s. Yet despite the UK pioneering the ‘supply side revolution’, the country spends little on this area of policy in comparison to most other European countries. Expenditure is heavily concentrated on relatively inexpensive ‘job-search’ services, and active labour market policy interventions in fact overlap with cost-reducing ‘welfare to work’ initiatives, designed to improve work incentives for those with the lowest incomes. Despite a rhetorical indictment of New Labour policy in this area, the coalition government has continued and intensified recent policy practice, and as such focused on compelling individuals to accept low-paid, low-quality employment opportunities. The paper argues that active labour market policy is not a response to labour market conditions, but constitutive of the institutional framework which gives rise to certain labour market forms. Low spending does not mean that active labour market policy is marginal to the UK’s growth model and associated economic statecraft; rather, spending on job-search services seems to typify the understanding of employment – and the state’s limited role in determining the level and nature of employment – inherent in the Anglo-liberal growth model.
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Image: Lucy Fisher